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2009 Domestic Violence Law Legislative Update

November 2, 2009

Author: Amy Schwartz-Wallace

Despite the well-publicized legislative challenges of last summer, a great many bills addressing domestic violence and other issues of interest or concern to families were, ultimately, enacted.  The summaries below include much of the new legislation that was passed by the New York legislature and signed into law by Governor Paterson last session:   

Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Sexual Assault

  1. Employment Discrimination [A.755-A/ S.958-B]:  Adds status as a “victim of domestic violence or stalking” to the existing classes of person against whom employment discrimination is prohibited under New York’s Human Rights Law in Executive Law §§296, 292. Of note,  under the Governor’s Omnibus DV Program Bill (below), the Division of Human Rights staff will now receive training in order to facilitate implementation of this new anti-discrimination law.  This new law became effective on July 7, 2009. Chapter Number 80.
  2. Governor Paterson’s Omnibus Domestic Violence Program Bill [A.9017/S.55306 and S.5031-A]:  This law, arguably the most comprehensive since the passage of the landmark 1994 Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act, contains many long-awaited and important criminal and civil components including:  
    1. Mandatory domestic violence training for both new and veteran lawyers for children under Family Court Act §249-b (effective December 15, 2009);
    2. Addition of four (4) enumerated sexual assault-based family offenses (Sexual Misconduct, Forcible Touching, Sexual Abuse 3rd and 2nd) to the Family Court Act §§812,821 and the Criminal Procedure Law §530.11 (effective December 15, 2009);
    3. New requirement under Domestic Relations Law §240 that courts addressing custody and visitation issues must now state on the record how the findings, facts, and circumstances factored into their best interests determination in cases involving domestic violence (effective December 15, 2009);
    4. A report of a domestic violence incident involving a person known by  the law enforcement officer as a person under supervision of the parole or probation supervision shall be forwarded to the agency as soon as practicable (effective January 14, 2010);
    5. Multiple provisions regarding unsealing of records involving criminal convictions for Harassment in the 2nd Degree as against a member of the same “family or household” (effective January 14, 2010);
    6. Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law §§provisions related to issuance of orders of protection during the time period defendant was incarcerated (effective December 15, 2009 ) ; and
    7. Training for the Division of Human Rights staff to facilitate implementation of the 2009 employment discrimination against domestic violence and stalking victims law (see above) (effective December 15, 2009) . 

This legislation was signed by the Governor on September 16, 2009 under Chapter Number 47b.

3.  College Campus Information [A.2714/S.2296]:  Creates a new requirement under Education Law §§6432, 6431(3) that college campuses should update/review policies and procedures relating to stalking and domestic violence for: educating the campus community and security, reporting incidents, counseling and referrals.  Additionally, all incoming students must now be provided with information about domestic violence and stalking prevention and services.  This new law became effective on April 7, 2009 under Chapter Number 13.

4.  Amendment to Unemployment Insurance Benefits [A.8273/S.4110-A]: Among other extensive provisions facilitating New York’s compliance to receive federal stimulus package monies, the new law includes an amendment to Labor Law §593 which already provided access to unemployment insurance benefits for victims of domestic violence forced to leave their job for good cause related to the abuse.  The amendment institutes a new documentation requirement that continued employment would jeopardize the victim’s own safety or that of an immediate family member. This law became effective on May 20, 2009 under Chapter Number 35.

5.  Automatic Temporary Orders in Name Change Cases [A.3468/S.4334]:  Provides for an automatic temporary court order sealing court papers during the pendency of the action where an individual seeks a sealed, unpublished name change under Civil Rights Law §64-a.  This new law became effective on July 7, 2009 under Chapter Number 83.

(Note:  For a full description of the Empire Justice Center’s advocacy of this new law and its impact, see the Summer 2009 issue of the LSJ available online at:  http://www.empirejustice.org/issue-areas/domestic-violence/case-laws-statues/family-offense-order-of-protection/new-law-provides-temporary.html 

6.  Prohibitions on Compelling Victim-Abuser Contact as a Condition of Receipt of Benefits [A.3843-A/S.5036]:  This law amends Social Service Law §459-g and prohibits the state, its political subdivisions, public authorities, and employees and agents thereof from compelling domestic violence victims to contact their  abusers, directly or for any reason, as a condition of receiving public assistance benefits and services. The law does provide for the creation of a confidential intermediary in the event that such contact is required and the victim gives informed, written consent. This law will be effective on December 15, 2009 under Chapter Number 428.       

7.  Sexual Assault Information Packets [A.3378/S.4077]: This law amends Social Service Law §131and directs social services districts to   inform public assistance applicants/recipients of their option to receive a packet containing information about local programs and services for victims of sexual assault.  This law will become effective on March 15, 2010 under Chapter Number 427.    

Other Matrimonial and Family Laws

  1. Automatic Orders in Divorce Cases [A.2574/ S.2970]: This law establishes a variety of  automatic orders at the commencement of  matrimonial actions under Domestic Relations Law §236(B)(2) that restrain marital funds and property during the pendency of the proceedings. This new law became effective on September 1, 2009 under Chapter Number 72.
  2. Loss of Health Insurance in Matrimonial Proceedings [A.7570/S.4533]: This new law amends provisions in Domestic Relations Law §236(B) and now includes the loss of health insurance coverage in the enumerated list of factors a court must consider in determining equitable distribution and awarding maintenance.  The law became effective on September 14, 2009 under Chapter Number 229.
  3. Modification of 2007 Health Insurance Loss Notification [A.7561/S.2851A]:  This new law repeals the 2007 addition to Domestic Relations Law §117 and replaces it with a new  Section 255.  This new law retains the essential requirements of the loss of health insurance notifications in matrimonial actions contained in the laudatory 2007 legislation, but responds to the logistical concerns raised by the bench, the bar, and the domestic violence community.  This law became effective on July 11, 2009 under Chapter Number 143.         
  4. Custody and Visitation Cases Involving a Military Parent [A.8789/S.6037]: This comprehensive law modifies existing provisions and creates new provisions within the Military Law §253, the Domestic Relations Law §§240, 75.1, and the Family Court Act §651.  Amendments and additions address custody and visitation matters involving parents who are on active duty, deployed, or temporarily assigned to the military.  This law will be effective on November 15, 2009 under Chapter Number 473.  
  5. Amendment to Registry Checks in Custody & Visitation Cases: [A.2004a/S.5697]  This law is a Chapter Amendment to Chapter 595 of the Laws of 2008 and amends Domestic Relations Law § 240 and Family Court Act §651.  This law makes several technical and procedural corrections to the 2008.  It limits a court’s review of warrant databases to Family Court-issued warrants.  The law also lengthens the permissible time lapse between database reviews before the issuance of successive temporary orders of custody or visitation to 90 days. Further it requires notification of self-represented parties and attorneys for children upon issuance of a temporary emergency order of visitation or custody and provides for the   issuance of temporary emergency orders. This law became effective on August 11, 2009 under Chapter Number 295. 

Child Support and Child Care

  1. Child Care Subsidy Requirements [A.3657/S.2091]: This new law abolishes the regulatory requirement that recipients of and applicants for child care subsidies be required to pursue a court order for child support or paternity establishment against the non-custodial parent as a condition of receipt of benefits. This new law became effective on July 23, 2009 under Chapter Number 233.       
  2. Child Support Modernization Act [A.8888/S.3879A]:  This important new law amends the Social Services Law’s requirement to revise the Child Support Standards Chart, as well as raises the combined parental income cap from its current $80,000 to $130,000 with regular consumer price index adjustments every two years thereafter. It also clarifies the role of the Child Support Enforcement Unit relating to the provision of child support enforcement services to individual parties.  While some provisions were effective on August 11, 2009, the new cap and the CSSA chart provisions will be effective on January 31, 2010 under Chapter Number 343.         
  3. Online Posting of Home Day Care Provider Address [A.2311A/S.3423A]:  This new law protects the safety and confidentiality needs of certain home-based day care providers by   allowing them to opt out of the Office of Child and Family Services’ Internet-based directory posting the addresses and locations of day care providers’ homes under Social Services Law §390.  This law will become effective on October 25, 2009 under Chapter Number 354.       

Anti-Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners

  1. Correction Law Amendments Protecting Pregnant Inmates and their Babies [A.3373/S.1290-A]: This new amendment to Corrections Law §611 now prohibits the use of mechanical restraints (i.e. handcuffs and shackles) on a pregnant female prisoner about to give birth during her transport from the correctional facility to the medical childbirth   facility and upon such admission to the medical facility.  The law also prohibits the use of all restraints on such prisoner during laboring, childbirth and post-partum recovery and outlines the extraordinary circumstances and procedures when such restraints may be necessary.  This law became effective on August 26, 2009 under Chapter Number 411.
     

 





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